A rainy September in Germany saved the 2022 vintage for white wines, while red grapes thrived in the summer sunshine. Expect to hear a lot more about German reds this year.
According to the German Wine Institute, the 2022 harvest started as a stressful time for winemakers, who patiently waited for rain after a summer of prolonged drought and the hottest temperatures on record.
Just like in 2021, September came to save the day, bringing heavy rainfall that plumped up the berries and balanced out higher alcohol content that resulted from the sunshine.
Wines will show the typical flavors and aromas of their respective grape varieties, but expect a touch less acidity due to the summer heat. White wines will be lean, low-alcohol, and early drinking. Red wines are noticeably more vibrant in color thanks to the extra dose of sunshine and should develop well with age.
The harvest was plentiful in 2022, with the nationwide volume up by 6% from last year at an estimated 8,993,500 hectoliters and above the long-term average.
Plus, mid-December brought good news for Eiswein lovers. A number of producers across Germany’s wine regions were able to harvest the highly anticipated ice wine grapes after nighttime frost reached the required temperatures of at least -7° C. While fewer estates participated than in previous years, producers in the Ahr, Franken, Mosel, Pfalz, Rheingau, Rheinhessen, Hessische Bergstrasse, Saale-Unstrut, Sachsen, and Württemberg were able to harvest freezing grapes. Read more about Eiswein from the DWI here.
While a promising harvest overall, there were major differences depending on water availability, grape variety, and soil conditions across Germany’s 13 wine-growing regions.
Ahr (564 ha)
Less than two years after the devastating flood in the Ahr Valley, Germany’s “red wine paradise” harvested 13% more grapes than the long-term average and 39% more than 2021, impressive considering around 40 hectares of vineyard area is still unproductive due to the floods. Compared to other regions, the Ahr benefitted from sporadic rain in July and August. While there was some stem rot among Riesling grapes, Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) thrived in the summer weather and provided excellent quality and quantity across the Ahr.
Baden (15,783 ha)
Baden did not experience the long wait for rain in September, which came instead in August and during harvest. While young vines were affected by drought, Germany’s southernmost and warmest region harvested 13% more grapes than average and 50% more than 2021, when frost and vine diseases had reduced volumes. It was a very good year for Pinot varieties, and with moderate acidity and alcohol content, look forward to late-vintage wines that are light, aromatic, and easy drinking.
Franken (6,174 ha)
The hot, dry summer in Franken slowed down vines and necessitated pruning and yield reduction. Yet winemakers were pleasantly surprised by the harvest volume, which increased 6% above the long-term average and resulted in higher quality compared to 2021. Red grapes and Silvaner in particular will produce excellent wines, though Riesling and Bacchus struggled in the rain that arrived later in the season. The year’s white wines are lean, light, and won’t need much aging, while red wines are intensely colored with ripe tannin structure.
Hessische Bergstrasse (462 ha)
Heavy rain late in the season required Hessische Bergstrasse’s winemakers to speed up the harvesting process in early September to save grapes from spoilage. With yields 3% higher than the long-term average, quality is described as “good to very good” overall, producing healthy grapes for fresh, fruity whites and robust red wines.
Mittelrhein (468 ha)
Vineyards experienced lots of sunshine in the Mittelrhein, yet must weights were normal for most grapes and will result in well-structured, moderate-alcohol wines ready to drink by spring. The summer drought affected grapes, especially for terraced and steep-slope vineyards where winemakers had to transport water to the vines. While Riesling struggled in the heat, Pinot varieties thrived – contributing to a 15% higher yield than 2021.
Mosel (8,664 ha)
The summer was brutal on the Mosel, where harvest began earlier than ever on August 20th and the September rain came just too late, leading to 7% lower yield than usual. Young vines struggled in the dry heat, but older vines coped well thanks to deep roots. In light of the conditions, winemakers are satisfied with the quantity and quality of grapes. White wines are expected to be light, aromatic, and harmonious and reds and rosés will be intensively colored, with moderate alcohol and lower acidity throughout.
Nahe (4,237 ha)
The September rain was “better late than never” in the Nahe, rescuing the relatively small berries and leading to average yields of good quality grapes. Red varieties, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), and Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) are the stars of the region’s 2022 vintage, but winemakers were overall impressed by the quality and the share of Prädikat wines. We can expect lighter, more delicate wines with medium body, moderate alcohol, and restrained but fresh acidity.
Pfalz (23,759 ha)
Germany’s second largest wine region experienced extreme stress from the summer heat, but the Pfalz is familiar with heat. Rain then came in time for harvest, and while downpours were sometimes too frequent and too heavy, it ensured that healthy grapes could continue to grow. With yields 4% above the average, the “extreme vintage” still promises high-quality wines with fine fruitiness, fresh character, and less acidity than 2021. Expect excellent red wines to be very structured, colorful, and expressive.
Rheingau (3,197 ha)
With some winemakers prepared for the extreme weather, harvest in the Rheingau varied across vineyards – Steep slopes produced lower yields than sites with deep soils, and some growers were forced to remove all grapes from young plants that were starving in the heat and drought so that the vines could survive. Overall, producers expect a good vintage for Riesling, with some winemakers successfully cultivating grapes at Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese levels – and are particularly satisfied with the Spätburgunder harvest.
Rheinhessen (27,159 ha)
Winemakers lucked out with a high-quality Riesling harvest in Rheinhessen, as the heat threatened the freshness of the region’s main variety but September cooled down before the grapes suffered. While 2% below the average yield, the weather benefitted and ripened red grapes in particular, and white wines follow the trend towards fruity, expressive flavors, mouthwatering acidity, and lower alcohol content.
Saale-Unstrut (837 ha)
After four years of smaller harvests mostly due to frost damage in Germany’s northernmost region, Saale-Unstrut was rewarded with 23% higher yields than average in 2022. Droughts are typical for the region, so losses were expected, but conditions evened out and the year’s crops mostly reached Prädikat wine levels – particularly for Pinot varieties and medium- to late-ripening grapes.
Sachsen (509 ha)
Sachsen witnessed one of its earliest harvests ever after drought stress began as early as June, but yields were 2% higher than other years. The high volumes of rainfall benefitted the steep-sloped vineyards, which delivered high-quality wines including Spätburgunder and elegant, fruity, white wines.
Württemberg (11,358 ha)
The September rain came just at the right time in Württemberg, ensuring quality and resulting in wines with balanced acidity and alcohol content. Yields grew by 2% compared to the average, and winemakers look forward to full-bodied, intense red wines and fruity, lean whites. The region’s popular Trollinger variety will perfectly express its hallmark characteristics as a light, finely fruity red wine.